The TC Palm: Martin and Indian River counties may appeal All Aboard Florida

Posted on June 12, 2015

Lisa Broadt

Martin and Indian River County officials on Thursday said they are considering their next step after losing the first round of a court battle to stop All Aboard Florida.

“We’re still analyzing,” Indian River County Attorney Dylan Reingold said about a possible appeal. “Obviously the case isn’t done. This is just — as the judge said — the ruling at this stage of the case.”

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper on Wednesday denied Indian River and Martin counties’ attempt to temporarily block issuance of $1.75 billion of tax-exempt bonds for All Aboard Florida.

The passenger rail project needs one more approval — from the Florida Development Finance Corp., the agency that would issue the private activity bonds. The finance corporation was to rule on the bonds May 28 but canceled the hearing — as well as the rescheduled hearing set for June 10 — and has not chosen a new date. However, All Aboard Florida said it plans to start selling the bonds on June 22.

Cooper, in the 21-page filing, said the counties “stumbled” in their attempt to prove that blocking the bonds would stop All Aboard Florida and help prevent grievous and permanent harm, the legal standard needed for a temporary injunction.

All Aboard Florida last month said it has access to alternative funding sources and will proceed with or without tax exempt bonds. The company emphasized it already has invested nearly a billion dollars in construction and land acquisition.

“(All Aboard Florida’s) access to deep funding sources, through its parent corporation and otherwise, lends support to that belief,” Cooper said.

Martin and Indian River counties said an appeal is one of several options under consideration.

“It’s been part of (Martin County’s) discussion,” Martin County Attorney Michael Durham said Thursday.

The counties also are exploring the possibility of shifting their focus to what they describe as problems with the finance corporation, which earlier this year was determined to have an improperly constituted board.

The corporation was temporarily disabled and several of its decisions — including preliminary agreement to issue All Aboard Florida’s bonds — were deemed invalid, according to spokesman Sean Helton.

St. Lucie County on Monday, Indian River County on Tuesday and Martin County on Wednesday sent documents to the finance corporation reserving their rights to protest any future All Aboard Florida-related bond decisions made by the finance corporation board. The “point of entry” documents lay the groundwork for the counties to file formal complaints with the state.

The first phase of All Aboard Florida’s 235-mile project — from Miami to West Palm Beach — already is under construction and is to begin service in early 2017. The second phase of the $3 billion project — from West Palm Beach and nonstop through the Treasure Coast to Orlando International Airport — is to begin running in late 2017.

All Aboard Florida plans 16 round trips daily between Miami and Orlando.

Click here to view original article